How Will Marijuana Legalization Affect Pets?

Debates on marijuana legalization usually revolve around human health and safety, but it turns out that the relationship between pets and cannabis is just as complicated. We have to ask: how will marijuana legalization affect pets?

“They’re Frantic – Their Eyes are Dilated”

As reported in Vermont Public Radio (VPR), a team of Vermont police, public officials and community leaders recently went to Colorado to research the affect of marijuana legalization on the state. They discovered they have reasons to be concerned about pets and cannabis.

A Colorado veterinarian is warning dog guardians about the jump in dogs consuming pot products. Former president of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, Apryl Steele, explains that since Colorado’s marijuana legalization, “they’ve seen a four-fold increase in the number of dogs who’ve had to be treated for accidentally eating it.”

Dogs are also consuming way too much of the edibles intended for human consumption in moderation — we all know how excited our canine companions get about human food. While they might inhale only five percent THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) around their guardians, the dogs are consuming around 15 percent THC from the “hash-infused cooking oils and butter.” Although marijuana toxicity is usually not life-threatening, it’s not exactly fun. As Steele describes:

These animals are miserable. They just don’t know what’s happening to them. They’re frantic – their eyes are dilated but they’re looking around like the world is coming to an end. And it can last hours to a couple days sometimes.

Steele recommends being honest with vets about the possibility of marijuana toxicity because most vets will think expensive brain tumor, not marijuana. She also predicts that marijuana toxicity in dogs will increase as legalization spreads.

What Does Marijuana Toxicity in Pets Look Like?

The Pet Poison Hotline describes that marijuana toxicity in dogs and cats ranges from moderate to severe.

Some of the most common signs of marijuana toxicity in pets to look for are:

  • Severe depression
  • Walking drunk (appearing disoriented)
  • Lethargy
  • Coma
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyperactivity
  • Vocalization
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting (particularly in dogs)

Toxicity in pets can occur from second-hand exposure and direct ingestion. Toxicity signs typically appear within three hours of exposure. The Pet Poison Hotline recommends immediately reaching out to a veterinarian or to a similar hotline in cases of marijuana toxicity.

How Marijuana May Also Be Helping Dogs

No doubt the marijuana toxicity is serious, but there’s a whole other side to cannabis and pets. NBC News reports how hemp-based capsules are including small traces of THC to keep dogs happy, relaxed and out of pain, according to pet guardian testimonials. The capsules also allegedly stimulate a dog’s appetite much like human munchies.

Dr. Sarah Brandon and her husband are pioneering the combination of hemp and THC. As Dr. Brandon explains:

It’s experimental and we tell people that. It’s not a miracle drug. This is truly a supplement designed to help conditions and help ongoing therapies, not the sole treatment of anything.

Many animal professionals are skeptical since there’s so little data available. There’s no animal efficacy data, no proof that the capsules are safe for animals, and no proper dosing data and regulation. Although earlier this month, Canna-Pet announced that they were looking for volunteer participants for the first scientific survey exploring the use of cannabis-based products for animal use, it’s best to explore the option of cannabis-based products with a veterinarian since there are so many unknowns.

Do you think that marijuana toxicity in pets will increase as legalization increases? Would you give a cannabis-based product to your pet? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Bill Selak


Elizabeth Welty
Elizabeth Welty2 years ago

I worry about my cats and other species beside dogs. People do have birds , rabbits, hamsters,fish, etc.. for pets to. But i think the vets are saying it hurts pets , because they don't want to loose money. Medical and food industry is all about the money.

Crystal G.
Crystal G2 years ago

No it wouldn't hurt them but: aren't some of you worried about them eating and having a nervous reaction? That COULD happen. I know I don't care much for the drug. What if my pet did not either but, someone was careless with their stash?

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell3 years ago

Thank you

Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle3 years ago

Sorry, I had cats when I smoked pot. One day I found one of my cats using my bong and I put my foot down. He had to buy his own stash. No free rides. He meowed about not having money for pot but he always had his stash of catnip. I never dipped into his stash of catnip. Things were tense for a while but we worked it out.

Sorry, my response is silly but while I do respect the authors concern for animal welfare with this issue but use of pot is currenlty prevelant. Lots of people who smoke pot have pets. You just don't let your pets near your pot. I had cats for at least 20 of the years I smoked pot and the worst they got might have been a contact high. They never consumed any.
Thanks for the concern.

Manuela C.
Manuela C3 years ago

Like you should keep this away from children, you should also from pets. Duh!

Susan Griffiths
Susan Griffiths3 years ago

We must all be vigilant to ensure pets and wild animals do not get hold of poisons.

Angev GERIDONI3 years ago


Marc P.
Marc P3 years ago

Glennis W.: The most dangerous thing about marijuana is the threat of law enforcement. (And tiny minded people like you..)

Marc P.
Marc P3 years ago

What a crock of shit. When I was a kid in the late 1970's I used to buy weed from this little old lady we called "Grandma." She sold pot to subsidize her small pension. This lady had 2 little dogs who LOVED pot. If "Grandma" didn't hide her weed the dogs ould steal her stash and eat it. They begged for roaches. When we smoked pot the dogs would come running. Now some people could twist this into being "Abuse". I don't. Humans enjoy getting high, and since so many animal rights activists claim that animals are almost human, sentient beings, why would they NOT want to get high??? Seems to me that all these people screaming for "Animal Rights" would have no problem throwing a willing dog a bone!